Dalí’s city

At once frontier town yet French-influenced, open yet commercial, bourgeois yet a country town, a restless, secular, republican city with a strong democratic tradition: this was early 20th-century Figueres, the city where the painter who was to become its universal figure was born. People cannot be truly understood without considering the places where they grew up. Dalí and the city of Figueres are a good example.

Tracing the history of the city allows us to understand the vital, human, and cultural context in which the son of notary Dalí grew up. Figueres, during the artist’s lifetime, underwent great many changes. The initial decades were marked by modernization and hope, benefiting from its border city status and proximity to the sea, with vast, fertile agricultural plains. However, the Spanish Civil War inflicted a deep wound on Figueres. The post-war period turned it into a city of restrictions and, like the rest of the country, subject to intense repression. In the 1960s, the arrival of tourism began to change the situation. While Dalí had become a cosmopolitan figure, he never severed his ties with “his” Figueres. Over the years, the child born at number 6 Monturiol Street would earn Figueres a spot on the map.

Image of the Rambla de Figueres, and among the crowd, a "charlatan" working as a traveling dentist (1888-1889).
Image of the Rambla de Figueres and among the crowd a “charlatan”, working as a traveling dentist, 1888-1889.
Photographer: Josep Maria Cañellas. Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya (National Archive of Catalonia)

“A generous, enthusiastic people, in love with shows, tolerant, not too interested in saving”

— Josep Pla. Viatge a Catalunya, 1934